Sunday, April 24, 2016
Purple Rain is Playing in my Head
I think Purple Rain will be playing in my head on a continuous loop for oh, about the next year! It is there right now, playing in the background - "Purple Rain, Purple Rain...." It was there when I went to bed last night. I noticed myself stirring the gravy to its rhythm this morning, fat old hips swaying in tune.
There are artists of every stripe in our world - painters, musicians, writers, poets. They all deserve a little credit although they may have touched our lives only slightly and barely rate the title. (I consider myself in that light). Some are mediocre. Some are good. Some are great and some are sublime...and Prince was one of those.
In a time when poor black boys so frequently fell by the wayside of drugs and gangs, Prince didn't just crawl out of the ghetto, he blasted out with the force of a rocket, leaving a trail of stardust for others to follow.
In a time when poor black boys were so anxious for a way out, they were willing to sign their lives over to a publishing or recording company, Prince did that too....until he marshaled his forces and through sheer talent and courage and determination, forced Warner Brothers to back down and sign a contract written exactly the way he wanted it written, even if he had to change his name to a symbol to do it.
In a time when poor black boys were expected to be non-threatening, leaving the bawdy hip-shaking to "safer" white musicians like Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis, Prince oozed sensuality. He was sex personified in both his lyrics and his movements. He was in-your-face about it. "Fuck you if you don't like it." And we liked it even if Tipper Gore and the Parent's Resource Council didn't, putting him at the top of their list of unacceptable dirty boys.
He was so hot, he was cool, rocketing past all the conventional norms. He wore mascara and lace but none of us women were fooled. We knew a man when we saw one.
He forced us out of our musical comfort zones.
"Think you don't like rap? Think you don't like hip-hop? Think you don't like disco? Whatever it is you think you don't like, listen to this and I'll change your mind."
He was an outlaw but he didn't spray bullets just to make noise. He was so in control of his environment that every shot hit the bullseye whether that was in arrangement of his music or perfecting his brand or helping young musicians find their voice and their confidence in themselves.
He gave millions to charity but he didn't talk about it. He was never involved in any scandal that I ever heard about. He was a consummate showman but he kept his private life private. He never "went Hollywood" but stayed in Minneapolis and supported his own community. He'd told his family that when he died he wanted "no drama" and so it was.....just the family at a private ceremony and cremation.
His Super Bowl half-time show was indicative of who he was. When others would have canceled because of the pouring rain, he said, "can you make it rain harder?" And so he played in the drenching downpour and gave the best half-time show ever.
He was that rarest of humans - the Artist Sublime.
Rest in peace, Beautiful Man.